Neil McNaughton
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The Welfare State
in Understanding British and European political issues

This chapter discusses the origins and principles of the Welfare State, and traces the changing attitude of the parties and their policy makers to it. The term welfare is not a precise one so that a Welfare State may contain a variety of different services. In Britain, where the system is broad based, there are a large number of services included in the term. These are: personal health services, public health provision, social services, subsidised housing, education and social security. The chapter examines three political traditions: Liberalism, Conservatism and Democratic Socialism (i.e. Labour). A future Conservative government, especially under its new leader, Iain Duncan Smith, may well decide to replace state health or education provision with private-sector arrangements. They have a sense that the Welfare State is not appropriate for a modern, pluralist society as there is sufficient prosperity for people to be able to make private arrangements.

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